Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Updated Peace Corps Packing List

Since this post continues to get traffic, I've updated it with notes about what I wish I would have packed or ditched.  Good luck to all of you who are preparing to leave!

With the days until my departure flying by and a family vacation scheduled for next week, I figured I better get down to business with my packing.  I’m 99% sure I’ve overpacked and 100% sure I’d rather have more than I need than not enough.  This is two years, people!  Although I’ve heard a ton of my future comrades talk about purchasing stuff once we get there, I’d prefer to just have it with me now.  Either way, we’re going to have to drag it to our assignments in the next few months, but this way I can save some of our precious allowance for other (more fun) things.  

Peace Corps Packing

So, here’s my packing list.  Surprisingly, everything looks like its going to fit into 1 checked bag and 1 carry on.  Space saver bags, especially the kind that don’t require vacuum cleaners, are miracle workers.  

4 Tank Tops (White, Brown, Orange, Maroon)
12 Short Sleeve Tops (White, Green, Brown, Rust, Navy, Grey, Pink, Purple, Striped)
3 Button Down Tank/Short Sleeve Blouses (Blue, Aqua, Leopard)
2 Long Sleeve Button Downs (Chambray, Plaid)
5 Casual T-Shirts 
1 Long Sleeve TShirt
5 Workout/Moisture Wicking Tops
     Worth their weight in gold

5 4- one got left behind last minute Skirts (Black, Navy, Khaki, and two printed patterns)
      All of my women wear skirts, so I live in mine too.  I wish I had more yoga type skirts though, as those are the ones I wear the most. 
2 Pairs of Pants (Jeans and Brown Patagonias)
1 Pair Khaki Capris
     I wear these and a nice top to all my meetings!
3 Pairs of Shorts (Denim, Khaki, Printed)
     Because of the local attitude towards modesty, I can't wear shorts in site.  It would have been better to only bring my denim pair. 
3 Pairs of Leggings (I know... but I live in them)
     No regrets here.  It gets cold at night!
3 Pairs of Running Shorts
     I may not be able to wear these around site either, but when I'm in my house I'm guaranteed to be wearing them.  So again, no regrets.  

5 Dresses 
     I love wearing dresses, but looking back I would have traded most of these for slightly more modest versions that are at least knee length and cover my shoulders.  
1 Blazer  This was left behind, and that's for the better.  It's too hot for blazers here and I've never been in a situation that polos or a button-up blouse weren't good enough.  
1 Hoodie This was also left behind, but I'm regretting it.  Bocas can be cool! 
1 Pair Pajama Pants
2 Pairs Pajama Shorts
     I probably could have done without these, especially considering how many shorts I have
2 Bathing Suits (1 One-piece and 1 Two-piece)

3 Sports Bras
     And as soon as I can find more, I am buying them
3 Regular Bras
     I never, ever wear these.  Refer back to the "It's way too hot" comment
15 Pairs of Underwear
     It seems unnecessary, but now that I've shredded multiple pairs with continuous creek/rock washing, I'm glad I have extras
10 Pairs of Socks
     I packed 10 pairs of socks?  No way.  I swear I only have like 3 pairs in my room right now.  

Hiking Boots
Running Shoes
2 Pairs Sandals (Black and Brown)
Black Heels   Sadly, these got ditched as well.  Nice black sandals have been my go-to for nicer events
Brown Flats
Flip Flops for the Shower 

A few small necklaces 
Baseball Hat
Bandanas and Headbands
Over the Shoulder Purse
     Why did I not bring a wallet?  What is wrong with me??

Toiletries + Towels 
Bath Towel
Quick Drying Camping Towel
Small Mirror 
Razor + Razor Blades
     I am SO glad that I came with a ton of razor blades.  They were small and light to pack, but saved me from having to spend precious money on them during my first few months here while I was still getting adjusted.  
Weeks worth of Shampoo and Conditioner 
My favorite hair moisturizer 

Computer + Charger
Camera + Charger + 2 Memory Cards
     I cannot even begin to explain how much I use this.  Everyday?  Everyday.  
Battery Powered Fan (Again, I know... But going cold turkey to the heat was going to be rough)
     And I was right.  Though I rarely use it now, that kept me sane during the first few adjustment weeks

Laminated Photos of family, friends, home, etc. 
     Though I'm constantly showing photos of my family, friends, and pets, I haven't been able to share the photo of my house with anyone.  I didn't even think about that until I got here.  
501 Spanish Verbs Book
2 Books to Read These didn't make the cut 
Clothes Pins  Nor did these
Gifts for host families
Coloring Books and small toys for kids
     Also have your family mail you additional kid stuff; such a big hit! 
Checkers & Playing Cards 

To everyone who’s laughing at my failure to live simply enough, at least I won’t have to do laundry every other day and won’t have to wear black shoes with a brown outfit.  

P.S.  Ironically enough, one of my goals over the next two years is to live more simply.  I’ll keep you posted on that one.  

Full Disclosure, I ended up throwing way more random stuff in there than I originally thought.  Between extra books and randoms, I had to pack a whole new bag... Don't do that.  

Notes after 6 months in Country:

I am so glad I brought: hiking boots, my iPod, additional clothing options.
I wish I had brought: an iPad/tablet stocked with books.  That seriously would have made my first few weeks in site so much easier!  I also should have packed a hoodie, my nalgene bottle, and potentially an extra pair of chacos since I'm already buying new ones.
I'm so glad I left: my blazer and heels.  As much as I loved dressing up at home, sandals and a simple dress will do you just fine in Panama.
I wish I had left: Most of my clothing that's shorter than knee length; I just don't have a chance to wear it!

***What you use and wear in site will heavily depend on your program and site.  I know some Panama volunteers who always have to be dressed up for work, and yet I can wear whatever modest clothing I like.  I also needed boots, badly, but others don't.  Though you can't know your exact site ahead of time, familiarize yourself with the customs and dress of your program and future country; it'll go a long way!


  1. great packing list... i laughed but only at the end at the irony. nicely written! when do you leave for PST?

    1. Haha, thanks! We have staging in DC on the 18th and we're flying to Panama on the 19th. I can't believe it's finally time!

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  3. Hola Abby! I'm about to arrive as part of Group 77 SAS and I have been enjoying your blog very much since I've found it! Thanks so much for keeping it up. I am in the midst of packing and wonder what advice you have for luggage. Is bringing a 50 L backpack plus a small duffle bag and messenger bag probably a good idea? Thanks for any help!!

    1. Hey Kim- welcome to Panama! That luggage sounds pretty good, just keep in mind that you'll be accumulating lots of extra stuff during your first few weeks- a med kit, mosquito net, books, training materials, etc. If you have any other Peace Corps/Panama questions, let me know. See you in a few weeks!

  4. This is super helpful Abby!! Thank you!! I'm in G78 leaving on February 23rd. I have really enjoyed reading your posts the past couple months and they have been super helpful and reassuring. Also I LOVE the Massy posts and pics :) I'm hoping I'll get to meet you in person down there, Best wishes!

  5. This is great Abby! Thank you for keeping it up. I'm leaving with my batch to the Philippines in July so the packing and shopping has begun!

    Thank you!